I'm not sure if compassion towards animals or an innate sense of sadism are at work, but these days, fictionalized accounts of laboratory experiments are much more often carried out on humans. I get the feeling Portal might be to blame for this recurring trend, which is fine - these games seem to work out nicely. And Sqr is, indeed, pretty nice.
Sqr's story is more or less shrouded in mystery - as far as I can tell the name itself doesn't even appear in the game - though I think the primary concern is that you are a person turned lab rat, set loose in a series of test areas where gravity can be changed via a series of arrows. You need to move from one area to the next by collecting keycards that will open a door to the next area.
Yeah. Lab and changing gravity. We've heard both of these elements before, and several times to boot. They still work, so long as the game play is passable, and Sqr's IS passable. More than passable, it turns out, though not without issues.
Simple but complex, Sqr relies on WASD/arrow keys and SPACE, the former doing the obvious and the latter interacting with objects in your environment, primarily arrows. Hit an arrow and gravity now goes in that direction, typically sending your dude, and any boxes or people in the vicinity, flying towards the nearest appropriate wall.
Overall, the controls work. That said, they present the game's biggest problems, as your little dude isn't only somewhat sluggish, he also doesn't always react as you'd like. Movement is usually okay, but the SPACE bar proves consistently problematic. This is a very bad thing if you need to accurately hit an arrow as you're hurtling towards a laser barrier and the SPACE bar doesn't work.
Sqr has a nice 16-bit feel that brought back many fond memories. Nothing is overly complex-looking, and though the environments can get a little drab after a while there's enough variation in the traps and enemies that you shouldn't get bogged down in repetition. The sprites very much reminded me of an old Final Fantasy game, and though there's almost no basis for other comparison between this and Square-Enix games, I revel in the likeness.
A few basic sound effects aside, Sqr's auditory component is ruled by a track that's pure industrial. It's decent, doesn't make me wanna blow my brains out, but it won't make its way onto my MP3 player either.
Sqr is a surprisingly tough game, though not as tough as some I've played. It has an evenly-scaling difficulty that doesn't get horribly high until the later levels, and more often than not traps and other inmates are to blame, not impenetrable combinations of gravity-altering arrows. Consequently, Sqr also ranks as a timing-sensitive platformer, above and beyond the obvious puzzler label.
The only thing that bugs me about Sqr is the time it can take to re-complete a level if you die. Your dude can only take a single hit, and if he does bite the dust he'll have to start the puzzle again. The innate slowness of Sqr makes this more of a chore than it probably should be. (Though I could simply be impatient.)
Sqr's a solid game, and despite a couple little snags it delivers some nice, mind-bendingly satisfying puzzles. Give this one a shot if you can wrap your head around gravity changing, because the intuitive nature of control inversion in this sucker is more addictive than I might otherwise have thought.